lee-priceIf the season ended now, Didier Drogba would win every individual award going; the big Ivorian has been in superb form, leading Chelsea’s title tilt from the front with eleven goals.

That tally sees him top the league’s \’top scorers’ listing, though Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe drew level after bagging five in a game.

Powerful, athletic and technically superb, Drogba has been instrumental in Carlo Ancelotti’s dream start to his time at Stamford Bridge.

Five points clear of Manchester United at the top of the table, and the Blues look good to end United’s four-year dominance. But, and whisper this quietly, the Ivory Coast captain may be too important for the club and his participation in January’s African Nations Cup really is significant.

Drogba is set to miss January’s schedule, which includes four Premier League ties. Though those games are all winnable for Chelsea – they face newly-promoted teams Burnley and Birmingham as well as Hull and Sunderland – his absence, as well as Michael Essien’s and Salomon Kalou’s, could cost his side their five-point cushion.

Ancelotti and Drogba himself have both dismissed this notion, but is that bravado? I mean, who exactly can the Italian manager call on in his main man’s absence?

Nicolas Anelka will lead the line and, yes, he was the league’s top scorer last season, but who else do they have in their ranks to turn in a match-winning performance?

The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Fabio Borini and the now infamous Gael Kakuta are in line for first-team responsibilities. The trio are certainly talented, but will they have the same impact as Drogba, who could produce a moment of majestic beauty at just the right time?

I don’t think so.

The loss of Drogba, and Kalou, his usual replacement, is not going to be cause Chelsea to lose the title, but it could certainly disrupt the superb momentum they have built up and let United back into the race.

As we all know, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are notoriously good at this time of the year. Watch this space…

Lee Price runs www.football-previews.co.uk

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